Decade Old Landfill Is Leading Onto The Napa River Pollution

by | Jun 10, 2024 | Environmental News, Pollution News

Home » Environmental News » Decade Old Landfill Is Leading Onto The Napa River Pollution

Famous for its lush vineyards and cherished wineries, Napa Valley is a popular escape for many. “When you first get there, it’s really pretty,” said Geoff Ellsworth, former mayor of St. Helena, a small Napa community 50 miles northeast of San Francisco. “It mesmerizes people.” However, over 3 million annual tourists are unaware of a brewing problem, Napa river pollution. California’s wine country faces a significant issue that has sparked multiple government investigations and created deep divisions among residents and business owners. Some fear this problem threatens the region’s reputation and environment.

Napa River Pollution

Landfill Contaminates Waterways

At the heart of the concern is the decades-old Clover Flat Landfill (CFL). It sits on the northern edge of the valley, atop a rugged mountain range. Two streams near the landfill flow into the Napa River. Evidence, including regulatory inspection reports and emails between regulators and CFL owners, indicates that the landfill and a related garbage collection business have regularly polluted these waterways with dangerous toxins.

The Napa River irrigates the valley’s vineyards and is used for kayaking by over 10,000 people annually. The potential contamination of water and wine with hazardous chemicals and heavy metals has caused a rift between those voicing concerns and others who wish to keep the issue quiet. “The Napa Valley is among the most valuable agricultural land in the country,” Ellsworth said. “If there’s a contamination issue, the economic impact is significant.

Employee Complaints and Legal Issues

The landfill and Upper Valley Disposal Services (UVDS) were owned for decades by the wealthy Pestoni family. Their vineyards were first planted in Napa Valley in 1892, and the Pestoni Family Estate Winery still sells bottles, including a $400 cabernet sauvignon magnum. The family sold the landfill and disposal services unit last year amid numerous complaints, transferring ownership to Waste Connections, a large waste management company based in Texas.

Before the sale, Christina Pestoni, who served as chief operating officer for UVDS and CFL, claimed the company’s operations met “the highest environmental standards” and complied with all legal regulations. She accused Ellsworth and others of spreading “false information” about CFL and UVDS. Pestoni now works as director of government affairs at Waste Connections.

Despite Pestoni’s claims, workers at the facilities believe the concerns are valid. In December, a group of 23 former and current employees of CFL and UVDS filed a formal complaint to federal and state agencies, including the US Department of Justice. They alleged “clearly negligent practices” in managing toxic and hazardous materials at UVDS/CFL over decades.

The employees reported “inadequate and compromised infrastructure and equipment”, affecting both workers and the environment. Among their concerns was the handling of “leachate,” a liquid formed when water filters through waste, leaching out chemicals and heavy metals like nitrates, chromium, arsenic, iron, and zinc. They also cited the use of “ghost piping,” describing unmapped underground pipes used to divert leachate and stormwater into public waterways instead of holding it for proper treatment.

Addressing these serious concerns may depend on Napa Valley’s environmental and economic future. The ongoing investigations and public awareness are crucial steps toward finding a solution to Napa river pollution.

Also Read: Aquafarming Emerges As Leading Global Fish Source: U.N. Food Agency


  • Sarah Tancredi

    Sarah Tancredi is an experienced journalist and news reporter specializing in environmental and climate crisis issues. With a deep passion for the planet and a commitment to raising awareness about pressing environmental challenges, Sarah has dedicated her career to informing the public and promoting sustainable solutions. She strives to inspire individuals, communities, and policymakers to take action to safeguard our planet for future generations.

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